“You’re trying to put one over on me!”
“No I’m not! I can’t believe you’ve been here this long and haven’t heard of it!”
“Because everyone n Circlehallow is open about their hauntings.”
LauraLai realized she was had. “OK, so maybe they tend to be sort of close-mouthed about some things, but everyone knows about the house on River road.”
LauraLai curled her feet underneath her and settled in for a good story telling. It was apparent this was going to be one of their more interesting days, and LauraLai had been bored for way too long.
“Well, no one was quite sure where their money came from. That was what made people talk, I think. They went from scratching to get by just like everyone else around here, to building that big old house up there, and they even had a servant! Who ever heard of anyone in a town like this having a domestic servant during the Depression?”
LauraLai’s eyes gleamed as she settled into the tale with relish.
“Most folks around here were just simple farmers and small town merchants. No one had much, but everyone was getting by, just helping one another out, and holding on until it was over, you know? The Hills were the same way, except maybe Ivan was a bit meaner than most people. There’s aways someone in a town like this who, well-get’s heavy handed when they’re in their cups, you know? But Ivan, well I heard he knocked Miss Freida’s eye out of her head!” The horror in the room was enough to make them both ill, but LauraLai couldn’t stop.
“That SOB was just plain mean, but she loved him, for better or for worse! See, I think it was her love what done it, but most people in town say old Ivan just plain sold his soul to the devil.”
“You heard me!”
“Wait! SO the towns people say he sold his soul to the devil to make money, but you think she loved him into it?”
“NO! You aren’t listening! Stop interrupting!”
“OK, OK!” The tension had been to heavy to not interrupt before emotions became physical. Both teens settled back into relaxed positions, more able to participate in the story-telling now that their fear had subsided a bit.
“The townspeople think that Ivan sold his soul to the devil for the money, yes. He got drunk one night and headed up the river. It stormed something fierce, and some people said that Miss Frieda never sent anyone to look for him in the night because she secretly hoped he would drown.
The next morning though, she sent the oldest boys out to fetch him and when they brought him back, he had the deed to that property and in his pocket, a wad of one hundred dollar bills as big as a man’s fist! He packed up the family right then and moved them up to River road. The family lived under a shanty made of blankets while he and the boys built that house. Of course old Ivan went into to town every night to share some whore’s bed.”
“Well! That’s how the story is told, no matter how old the person telling it!”
“Still, it’s pretty rude if you don’t know the whole story.”
“And are you telling the story or am I?”
“Sorry! Jeesh! Talk about mean, sure you aren’t related to old Ivan?”
LauraLai stared so hard the offense of the question was felt.
“Anyway! They built that old house up there and then old Ivan never left it again! One by one, the children grew up and left town as soon as they could, but old Ivan and Miss Freida stayed up in that house. Miss Freida would come in to town. She’d pick up whatever they needed from the grocery and aways stopped by the library for a few hours to read to the kids. Right across the street there! You can see the room she read in from your front door, actually.
“She was as friendly as old Ivan was mean. She even treated old Ivan’s bastards with a special kindness, but if anyone ever asked anything about him, she’s give them the eye, and they’d nearly wet themselves!”
“OK, now I know you’re lying!”
“You ever been scared enough to pee yourself?”
They were both just about that scared now.
“Yeah, well, maybe she picked up a touch of mean form old Ivan, but she knew how to stop any kind of non-sense! Cops didn’t take errant teens to their parents or even jail. They took them to the library to sit and wait for Miss Freida. She’d take them aside and have a little chat with them, and those kids straightened out right then! Never had too much trouble in Circle hallow when Miss Freida was alive!
“Then one day she came into the library and told everyone she wouldn’t be back. No explanation. You should hear the old librarian tell it. Well, I guess you can’t now, but to hear her, nearly all the town followed her back up River road, saw her go into the house, and never saw her again!
“Of course Miss Frieda probably spent her few hours at the library every day because old Ivan had visitors coming up to the house. That kept right on going for three years. Different girls, and a few of them claimed the children they bore were sired by old Ivan himself. Until he died, anyway.
That was the day Pearl started screaming, and didn’t stop until her baby was born.”
There had grown an eerie silence in the house as the story was revealed. No birds sang. No traffic drove by. Not even television or radio was to be heard from nearby houses. It was if the entire world had paused to hear this un-veiling.
“No one really knows how she walked all that way with her bare feet. River road isn’t that close to town, but she was heard coming in. Her feet didn’t stop until she reached the center of town. She stood there for hours, the say. Just looking straight up at the sky screaming. If they tried to move her, she flailed her arms and scratched so that they decided it would be safest to just let her scream it out.
Mostly it was the women folks who stayed with Pearl while the men went up River road. Story goes, there wasn’t anything all that unusual about the house, except two things: old Ivan was dead, and there was a chapel no one remembered seeing built.”
The illness had returned as well as a cold that strained their muscles, but they couldn’t stop. Even interrupting was no longer an option.”
“They removed the body right then and took it down to the doctor. No one bothered to lock up, and no one checked out the chapel. You have to remember that, because it wasn’t until after old Ivan died that things really got creepy.
“It had been three years, so it wasn’t until after everyone got over the shock of Pearl, that anyone thought to go look for Miss Freida. I guess what with the circumstances maybe they thought they’d find her body, but I guess we’ll never know if old Ivan really did kill Miss Frieda or not.”
“They can’t get back into the house.”
“What do you mean they can’t get back into the house?”
“It’s closed up like a freaking museum!”
“Yep! The doors are all locked from the inside, and no one can open any of the windows either. Look in them, and it looks like he died yesterday; not a speck of dust and even the newspapers aren’t yellowed.”
Sometimes that’s all it takes in the world of a teenager. One simple sentence, made up of a very few words, laced with heavy meaning, presented at a time when malignancy is lurking.